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BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Noel Coward Theatre, December 9 2015

Following a ten-year hiatus from the London stage, A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward Theatre marks Jim Broadbent's return to the West End. Patrick Barlow's take on the Charles Dickens classic is unlike anything I've ever seen before - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although Broadbent's Scrooge is still somewhat cold-hearted, he is by no means as cruel as other depictions.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a financier, giving loans to those in desperate need in the run-up to Christmas while setting out extortionate interest rates, alongside his assistant Bob Cratchit. He is of the belief that the poor should be put in prison or workhouses and doesn't believe in charity. On Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of his old friend and business partner Jacob Marley. Marley warns him that, if he doesn't repent and change his ways, he will be visited by three ghosts that evening. Throughout the night, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future show him various life events in the hope that he will eventually have a change of heart. Throughout the journey, the audience comes to the realisation that Scrooge's demeanour is an act of self-preservation as it is revealed all of the women he ever loved left him.

Broadbent's Scrooge is a mischievous character, not the hard man we know from the novel. It all feels very pantomime-like, however the message so prevalent in Dicken's tale still clearly comes across. The cast are superb in their multiple roles - changing from long lost loves, to ghosts, mothers, school teachers and carollers throughout. Samantha Spiro, Amelia Bullmore, Keir Charles and Adeel Akhtar effortlessly jump from one character to another. Spiro's Barbara Windsor-esque Ghost of Christmas Present had the audience howling with laughter.

The set, designed by Tom Pye, is reminiscent of Victorian pop-up Theatre, with snow being thrown on characters by the ensemble and puppets used in place of children throughout the production. Director Phelim McDermott keeps the pace steady and scenes never feel prolonged or dragged out thanks to the fantastic cast and imaginative set design.

Whether you're young or old, this is a classic Christmas tale that the whole family can enjoy.

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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